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Impeachment: Controversy Trails Judge’s Appearance

Justice Oloyode Folahanmi’s petition to have Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State and his deputy, Mrs. Titilayo Tomori-Laoye, investigated for mismanaging the state’s funds and possibly impeached may not see the light of the day given the approach of members of the investigative panel.

For some keen observers, this was expected, as there have been allegations and counter-allegations from various quarters on the credibility of the committee comprising only All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers set up by the Speaker of the Osun State House of Assembly. At Tuesday hearing of the committee, Justice Oloyede was represented by her lawyer, Mr. Lanre Ogunlesi (SAN), contrary to the expectation of the committee which preferred her physical appearance.

The panel began its sitting at 10a.m at the Committee Hall of the House of Assembly with heavy presence of security agents in and around the complex and with an armoured tank stationed opposite the assembly’s complex. Mr. Ogunlesi had demanded a copy of governor Aregbesola’s response to the allegations before her principal could make appearance. But the committee Chairman, Hon. Akintunde Adegboye, who is also the Deputy Speaker of the assembly turned down the request, asserting that the judge had broken three rules of the parliament already in wrong filing, signing and appearance in line with order 126 sub 1 of the sixth parliament.

Hon. Adegboye further drew the attention of the Judge’s lawyer to the parlance of the law, which quotes, “he who alleges must prove.” While arguing for the response of the governor before the judge could appear, the panel chairman said, the Oloyede’s petition at the fourth paragraph was categorical on her readiness to appear with her evidence to back up her petition, saying the committee could not play “father Christmas” in giving what was not requested for ab-initio.

Adegboye then clarified that the panel was a fact-finding committee and not a trial court, saying the appearance of the judge would further confirm her resolve to pursue her cause and assist the committee in its work, but stressed that Oloyede could as well send her evidence if she could not appear in person. Consequently, Ogunlesi told journalists after a closed-door meeting with the seven-man committee that justice and fair hearing demand that the petitioner be availed with the governor’s response to the judge’s petition. According to him, “Fair hearing demands that as a first step to defending the petition, it is necessary for the petitioner to be provided with the governor’s response.

“What we discussed with them was that for us not to waste time on this matter, answers to the petition by the governor should be made available. They said the committee was a fact-finding one, but the issue at stake was a serious one and for the sake of posterity and the people yet unborn, they need to forward the answers to her. “She could even come out and say I am sorry, I withdraw my petition after going through the governor’s reply and may not need to see the committee again. But, I want to say that she will be here.

We are not running away. She is bold enough to write the petition and she is prepared to defend it. If she should have the reply today, she will be here tomorrow”. Ogunlesi, who was a former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Ogun State, however expressed reservation at the attitudes of the committee members, saying with the way they spoke, the committee was likely going to close the case.

“They said they have their rules but they are not forthcoming towards our demand. They said they will decide and that we will be hearing from them. It maybe that they have made up their minds on what to do,” he stated. In his reaction after the meeting, Hon. Adegboye declared that his committee could not provide the petitioner with Aregbesola’s response, saying it was a confidential document sent to the House of Assembly by the governor. According to him, “The rule of the House is clear. Order 26 says that petition must come to the House through a member and again the petition must be signed page by page.

But we are not looking at this. We wrote the petitioner by inviting her to defend her allegations. “Another rule is broken because for clarity sake, the petitioner is not here and she needs to come in person but we allowed his representatives. This is not the end of the petition. We are still going to take our report to the floor of the house where every member will debate it. But she is the one who sent the petition and the onus rest on her to prove it.

According to legal experts, the Adegboye-led committee, was mandated by law to forward the respondent’s answer to the petitioner to enable her prepare her defence. Prior to Tuesday’s meeting of the committee, the Osun state chapter of the APC had accused the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of planning a ‘murderous demonstration’ to usher in Justice Oloyede, who was scheduled to appear before the House.

The Director of Publicity, Research and Strategy of the APC in Osun State, Mr. Kunle Oyatomi, who said this in a statement made available to newsmen on Monday, warned members of the party who had no business in the House of Assembly against going there on Tuesday.

The statement read, “The All Progressives Congress in the state of Osun has directed that none of its supporters who has no business at the state House of Assembly should go there on Tuesday for any reason whatsoever, because the PDP is reportedly planning a murderous demonstration to usher in Justice Olamide Oloyede into the House. “We have it on good information that the PDP is planning to use the opportunity to cause mayhem as they have always planned. The APC is calling on the security agencies to, again, be on the alert so that evil-minded people will not breach the peace.

The APC called on all its supporters to ensure that none of their supporters goes around the premises of the state assembly.” But the PDP while reacting to the allegation of violence by the APC said the ruling party was only afraid of its shadow. The Publicity Secretary of the PDP in Osun State, Mr. Bola Ajao, in a statement said the ruling party was raising a spurious allegation against his party because the “guilty is always afraid.” He said, “We are not planning any protest, let alone a murderous one.

These people are fond of fabricating lies and everyone knows that is their stock in trade. “The guilty will always be afraid. The governor admitted publicly that the state is in a quagmire and what they should be busy doing now is to begin to look for a way out of these problems. They should pay the workers and address other issues and leave politics for now. This is not the time to play politics. “Nobody in the PDP is planning any protest but they are afraid because of the enormity of the problems they have caused the state.”

It will be recalled that the Chief Press Secretary to the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mr. Goke Butika, said no form of demonstration would be allowed on the premises of the House on Tuesday. Governor Aregbesola is one of the governors owing state workers salary across Nigeria, which the Governors had blamed on the reduced allocation from the Federation Account, a claim most economists disagreed with and instead said the development was as a result of financial recklessness by the governors. Justice Oloyede had earlier petitioned the Speaker, Hon. Najeem Salaam, urging the house to investigate Aregbesola and his deputy for financial impropriety, where she expressed her considered opinion for the impeachment of the state helmsman and the deputy.

-Peterclaver Egbochue writes on the stalemate in the petition filed by Justice Oloyede Folahanmi, of the Osun judiciary demanding the impeachment of Governor Rauf Aregbesola and his deputy, Titilayo Laoye.

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